NOTE: This was written just as Katrina, a category 1 hurricane, was passing over Fort Lauderdale. There’s another post, with pictures of the storm damage, coming up when I finally get it done.
As hurricane Katrina slowly moves west from the Bahamas, lumbering at 7mph across the Florida Straights toward Fort Lauderdale, I can’t help but think that my streak of luck may finally over. That’s because although I’ve lived in both Puerto Rico and Florida for the past 25 years, this is my first actual hurricane.
The year my family left Puerto Rico was the same year that hurricane Hugo rocked the island. In fact, it we left no more than a week before the storm hit. (Actually it was more like a couple of days.) While there, we’d had our share of close calls, but never a direct hit. The closest I can remember was hurricane Gilbert in 1988. I was in the Boy Scouts at the time (Webelos, actually) and we were doing a group campout at our Head Master’s house. I was living in Bayamon at the time, and our Head Master lived at the foot of a pretty well-wooded (and generally steep) bluff. We were working towards a couple of our badges that day when we got the news that Gilbert was on its way. That’s just about the time the day went from seriously cool to “Estoy Cagao!” (“I’m crapping [my pants]!”) Had I been going for my badge of courage, it goes without saying that I wouldn’t have earned it.
Having escaped those two — as well as others I don’t remember, I’m sure — I moved to Tampa in ’89, where the streak continued. We got a few close calls, but again, nothing which could be considered a “hit.” In fact, I can’t remember even one hurricane, other than Andrew, which came even close. Even then, we didn’t exactly feel Andrew so much as we heard about it. Over. And over. And over…
With my lucky streak still in tact, I made my way down to Fort Lauderdale in 2003. I still remember thinking, “Ok, well it looks like my hurricane-free life is over.” Truth be told, I was kind of glad about it. Maybe it was some sick sense of adventure within me that longed for the sweet caress of 100mph winds blowing the roof of my neighbor’s house; the tender tap of bullet-like, sideways-flying rain pelting my face; or the ever so playful tree trunk lying across the road for all the happy little cars to play with.
In 2004, I thought my luck was officially over, as hurricanes Bonnie, Charlie, Jeanne, and Ivan ganged up on Florida, especially since Ivan and Jeanne were nothing short of Texas-sized monstrosities. Still, no direct hits meant that the streak was still on.
Then came Katrina to ruin the whole thing. Daing it.
Sidenote: Here’s a funny little story: I’m watching the news. They’re reporting next to the Fort Lauderdale airport and I-95. There are cars driving (swerving) down the interstate. A police cars with full sirens speeds by, and I can imagine it pulling a car over.
(Officer steps out, walks over to car he just pulled over.)
Officer: “Everything alright?”
Driver: “uhm… yeah”
O: “You were swerving a little back there.”
D: “Oh? Guess the weather’s affecting my car more than I thought.”
O: “Uh huh. Been doing a little drinking?
D: “Excuse me?!”
O: “That’s not exactly normal driving. Please step out of the car.”
D: (Incredulous) “Are you NUTS?! HAVE YOU NOTICED THE HURRICANE FORCE WINDS?!”
O: “Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to step out of your car…”
If this was anywhere other than Florida, this wouldn’t be funny. However, if you’ve ever been here you know full well that this isn’t too far fetched of a conversation.